Women in Rail: Celebrating Pioneers and Innovators Who Shaped the Industry

Happy Women’s History Month! This is a time to honor the countless contributions that women have made to society over the course of history, including their pivotal role in the rail industry. Despite making up only 16% of rail industry workers, women have played vital roles in the construction, maintenance, and operation of rail systems since the industry’s inception.

Take, for example, Jennie Fisk, who became one of the largest stockholders in the New York Central Railroad. She used her influence to support the expansion of the railroad and played a key role in the construction of Grand Central Station in New York City in the 1800s. And Olive Dennis, who was the first woman to work as a civil engineer for a major railroad. She began her career with the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in 1920 and was responsible for designing many of the passenger cars used by the company during the 1920s and 1930s.

In addition, there were innovators such as Eliza Murfey, an American inventor who developed a number of groundbreaking technologies for the railroad industry in the late 19th century. Her inventions included a system for automatically adjusting the brakes on trains and a device for detecting hot boxes on train axles.

Today, women continue to contribute to the industry in a variety of ways, from designing and engineering new rail systems to managing and operating existing ones. Carolyn Griffiths, for instance, is a British railway engineer who has over 30 years of experience in the industry. She is also a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and has been recognized for her contributions to the rail industry with a number of awards. Edwina Justus, another notable figure, began her career with Union Pacific in 1973 and went on to become the first Black woman to work as a railroad engineer.

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, let us remember these women, along with many others, who have made indelible contributions to the development of the railroad industry through their innovative inventions and technologies. Their work has helped to enhance the safety, efficiency, and comfort of rail travel, and their legacies continue to inspire new generations of inventors and engineers.

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